It’s a word that nobody likes to hear. The word “wait” doesn’t conjure up fuzzy feelings of a dreamy evening next to a toasty fire. If I’m honest, what it really conjures within me is the desire to punch something. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
No one likes to wait—not my 3-year-old, who fidgets in his seat before dinner, not my grandfather, who wouldn’t wait for the rest of us to open his gifts at Christmas, and not me on my third trip to the DMV. The concept of waiting challenges our perceived need to have something now. This desire is fed by our culture of instant gratification, yet it goes all the way back to the very first people on earth, Adam and Eve.
When God created the world and made Adam and Eve in His own image, He gave the earth to them to fill and subdue. Within the earth was everything they could have ever wanted. They were granted full access to the most beautiful and perfect of all creation (Gen. 1:28-30).
But when sin came into the world through the Enemy’s temptation, everything broke. The shattering of communion with God brought with it many consequences; one of those is the toil of waiting.
However, waiting isn’t all bad. God graciously made a promise to Adam and Eve that someone would come to crush the head of the serpent. That someone—Jesus Christ—did come, after a long wait. And now, especially in this season of Advent, we find ourselves waiting again, expectant for the fulfillment of His promise to return.
A New Way of Life
After the Fall, waiting became a way of life. When God called Noah to build the ark, it took time and patience for the ark to be ready and the rains to fall. God called Abraham to wait before his son, Isaac, was born, from whom God would make a people, as He had promised. Sold into slavery and wrongfully imprisoned, Joseph waited for redemption. God’s people waited over 400 years under the tyrannical pharaohs of Egypt. Complaining and disobedient, they followed Moses in the wilderness, wandering and waiting for another 40 years before reaching the Promised Land. David waited upon the Lord when he was pursued by King Saul. Though God’s people didn’t know the details, they were all waiting for a Savior.
Jesus did come at the perfect time to be a ransom for their sins and restore the relationship with God that was lost in the garden. But even His death and resurrection has not put an end to our waiting. The apostle Paul writes repeatedly about the Christian's wrestle with waiting:
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:23)
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. (Gal. 5:5)
Paul struggled with a "thorn" in his flesh that he asked the Lord to take away, but he had to wait and trust that the Lord was working (2 Cor. 12:7-10). As we wait, we too can trust that the Lord is always working.
Waiting Produces Something
Though the Fall brought about the toil of waiting, God, in His sovereignty, redeems our waiting by using it to produce good fruit in us. The Bible, especially the Psalms, gives us many different pictures of how we should wait: being still, putting our hope in Him, giving thanks for what He has done and considering His Word.
God is always about making us more into the likeness of His Son. These are just a few examples of what He is doing in our waiting.
He Is Strengthening Us
But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isa. 40:31)
Have you ever gone on a vacation and come back exhausted? A whole week away, and you are dead tired. What's the deal? One of things we learn as we grow in knowledge of the Lord is that He and He alone is the giver of strength. Though relaxation and sleep are gifts of common grace from God, only He can take away our weariness. As we wait upon the Lord, He strengthens us. As we surrender to all that He is and does, we find ourselves able to do the things He's called us to do.
He Is Providing for Us
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Ps. 33:18- 22)
God is the Author and Sustainer of life. In His loving kindness, He casts His gaze on those who fear Him and on those who place their hope in Him. It’s the pride of our hearts that says, “I can do it by myself,” and, “I don’t need God.” Yet He is the One who is sustaining the breath that carries those words. As we humble ourselves before our awesome Creator, He takes notice of us. As we wait for Him, trusting in His beautiful Name, He shows us mercy and protects us.
He Is Working Out His Plan in Us
The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. (Exod. 14:14)
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Ps. 62:1-2)
In our Exodus series, we are learning about God’s great plan to redeem His people from the evil grasp of Pharaoh. Yet, soon we will see that even in the midst of God's rescue, Israel complains. The ungrateful voice of impatience rises to God.
How often do we do the same? We don't see what God sees, and what we do see, we see with poor perspective. We think that God is not moving or working, or if He is, He's not doing a good job, not doing it the way we want. God calls us to quiet patience and silent waiting because He is working out His perfect plan in and through us. Waiting quietly is hard, but it shows that our hearts trust God's wisdom and plan even though we don't see all that He is doing. As Charles Spurgeon has said, "When we can't trace His hand, we must trust His heart."
Echoes of a Greater Longing
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil. 3:20-21)
What are the things for which you are waiting? A job, a spouse, healing, relational reconciliation? In God's wisdom, He allows us to wait and also brings resolution to our longing. But even if we get the thing we think we want the most, that longing never fully goes away. Ingrained within us is a longing that will only be fulfilled on the day when we see Jesus face to face. So whether we’re waiting on something trivial, like the line at the DMV or our drink at Starbucks, or we’re waiting on an answer to a heart-wrenching situation, these are all echoes of a greater longing, shadows of the desire for the One who can ultimately satisfy that longing.
So Christians, what's our response? You may be thinking "Yeah, resolution sounds great, but I’m still waiting for my tough circumstances to go away." I get it. But I believe we can find hope in Paul’s words. The Lord Jesus Christ will one day transform our bodies to be like His, which is imperishable (1 Cor. 15:53-54). With that same power, He is sovereignly ruling over all things today and every day, including the things for which we wait. We have a God who is both able and willing to be lovingly involved in our lives. We wait, then, knowing our hope is grounded in God's faithfulness (Heb. 10:23). Right waiting produces godliness and a satisfying hope in Him.
No matter what earthly things we wait for, we all share this ultimate longing. We’re all waiting together. Let’s wait with anticipation that the One for whom we wait will sustain us fully until we see Him. On that day, the wait will be worth it.
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Ps. 27:14)